2017 City Council Screening Questionnaire
Candidate Name: Ben Kallos
Council District 05
If there is a Campaign office(s), is it wheelchair accessible? No, but my Council office is.
Campaign Address: 1520 York Avenue, 21E, New York, NY 10028 Website: kallosforcouncil.com
Government Officials : Congress Member Maloney, State Sen. Krueger, Assembly Member Quart, PA James, Comptroller Stringer, and MBP Brewer.
Political Clubs: Four Freedoms Democratic Club, Lexington Democrats, and Lenox Hill Democrats
Labor: 32BJ, CWA and Mason Tenders District Council
Action Shows Commitment!
What have you accomplished in regard to advancing disability rights? This can include work towards accessible housing, transportation, employment, health care, education, and including people with disabilities in the political process? As a local Council Member I have worked with resident to identify dozens if not hundreds of corners whose sidewalk ramps were not accessible and worked with Department of Transportation to fix them and I have even introduced legislation to fix this problem. As chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, I have oversight over the NYC Board of Elections. For decades NYC BOE operated poll sites which did not meet ADA compliance. As chair, I have pushed NYC BOE to find and open ADA -compliant poll sites. We are working everyday towards better compliance. Last but not least I have gotten BOE and the School Construction Authority to agree on investigating whether they can use BOE’s equipment that makes schools accessible year-round.
Will you only attend / sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs including providing written materials in alternate formats, providing assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters as well as ensuring that locations are physically accessible? We already do, will continue to do so, voted in favor of legislation adding accommodation requests for city agencies and will continue to advocate that all events be open and accessible to those with disabilities.
Local Law 28 requires City department and agency “advertising and other materials pertaining to public events to include information regarding accessibility for people with disabilities” but it does not include elected officials or Community Boards. Do you believe the law should be amended to include electeds and Community Boards? In the absence of an amendment to Local Law 28, would you voluntarily comply? L ocal Law 28 should also apply to the City Council and Community Boards. Accessibility services are currently unfunded for both and I have advanced proposals in the City Council to provide each and every office with services without additional cost to the offices. I hope to work with 504 Democrats so that the Speaker and Mayor adopt a policy to provide free accessibility services to any government office that requests it.
II. General Questions:
What personal and professional experience have you had with people with disabilities? I personally have been a primary caretaker for my mother who has Parkinson’s Disease, secondary caretaker for my grandparents who had Parkinson’s Disease. Professionally I have worked with, employed staff, and trained interns with disabilities that we accommodated. I was also proud as a Council Member to march in the first Disability Pride Parade, look forward to marching again, and support legislation to support people with disabilities.
What would be your strategy to work closely with the disability community to assure passage of vitally needed legislation through the City Council? For each of my legislative initiatives I have sought partners in the advocacy world to be partners in the bill drafting, introduction, and advocacy phases. Coordinating outreach to media, council colleagues and leadership, and the Administration is vitally important.
How will you use your office to affirm or strengthen, rather than weaken, civil rights protections for persons with disabilities? I will continue to lead by example, support initiatives through advocacy, media support, and my vote in the Council.
Will all events planned by your office be accessible with all material including the appropriate accessibility symbols (such as the wheelchair, ASL CART, etc)? All of our events have been and will continue to be accessible. I hope to work with 504 Democrats so that the Speaker and Mayor adopt a policy to provide free accessibility services to any government office that requests it.
What is your position on the development of supported apartments/homes for people with disabled in your borough? Support.
Visitability sets guidelines to ensure newly constructed multi-family dwellings have basic accessible/adaptable features to permit people with disabilities can visit, and for residents to "age in place," without having to move out when age and/or disability set in. Do you support incorporating the concept of “visitability” in the Building Code? Y es.
What will you do to expand affordable wheelchair accessible transportation in NYC, express buses, and shuttles, more accessible subway stations, etc.? I am proud to have worked with Beta.nyc, BusTurnaround.nyc, and TWU Local 100, to bring 79 new more accessible buses to serve the M15, M101, M102, and 103 in my district as well as new Select Bus Service on the M79 and M86 that are also more accessible. I am currently working with Transit Center to use data to analyze and build an app to support disabled subway riders who often find an elevator has broken down after they’ve already arrived at the only station with an elevator in an area. I would like to work with the 504 Democrats to ensure that every new subway station provides multiple elevators with redundancy so they all do not break down at once as well as forcing a new elevator being added to the 86 th Street and Lexington Station not only serve local but also express trains going uptown.
Access-A-Ride (AAR) users experience unnecessarily long trips, causing users to be late for work and appointments. Users have been stranded and penalized as a "no-show" when the vehicle never arrived. Riders who complain report they have been subject to retaliation. What would you do to improve the quality of service? Each AAR vehicle should be fitted with a GPS and an online tracking system like TLC and MTA’s BusTime so that we can track trips for AAR and determine when they do not show up automatically. This strategy has worked for improving bus service in my district. I would like to expand the Taxicab/Car Service Reimbursement policy by providing a universal vehicle haling app that I introduced that would allow anyone to hail an accessible vehicle as easily as an Uber. Last but not least I would like to replace the Taxicar/Car Service reimbursement policy with just letting AAR riders use accessible fire hire vehicles with a direct payment by the city.
VI. Community Boards:
Do you support requiring all Community Board meetings and functions to be accessible, including requiring sign language interpreters and large print format material? Yes. I would like to work with 504 Democrats so that the Speaker and Mayor adopt a policy to provide free accessibility services to any government office that requests it.
b How many people with disabilities have/will you appoint to your local Community Board? I have worked with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to appoint numerous people with disabilities to my community boards and hope to work with 504 Democrats and others organizations to recruit members of the disability community to join as public members so they have a voice now and are more likely to be appointed to the full board.
VII. Discretionary Funds:
Will you use your discretionary funds to support organizations serving PWDS or service organizations seeking to make their programs accessible to PWDS? Yes.
a. What steps do you think NYC should take to encourage business owners to make their establishments more accessible? The city should offer small businesses zero-interest loans to add ramps and other renovations that would make them accessible. I have had numerous conversations with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and Small Business Services on this topic and hope to have the support of the 504 Democrats in making this program a reality.
b. How would you ensure that emergency evacuation for PWDS provisions are put in place to improve survival rates of PWDs in the event of fire, attack, blackout, or other emergency situation? The Office of Emergency Management should would with the disability community and providers to proactively connect with every person with disabilities to ensure a safety plan, that first responders are aware of those who may need accommodations and use the NYC Alert system for real time mass communications to ensure every person disability is safe in any emergency situation.
X. Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)
a. Mayor Bloomberg elevated the Director of the (MOPD) to a Commissioner without any increase in budget. How would you ensure that city departments/agencies coordinate through MOPD? I would like to work with 504 Democrats to establish an agency with sufficient funding to serve people with disability.
How do you believe the City Council should enforce and do oversight regarding the work of the office and be certain of the implementation and its efforts? As Chair of the Committee of Governmental Operations with oversight of the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) I am interested in working with the 504 Democrats to add accessibility as a performance measure as well as working with other committees on better oversight of the city’s efforts to support people with disabilities.